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SAYING GOODBYE HARD FOR PRINCIPAL.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

CHATSWORTH - The good ones can't leave it at work. They have to take the questions home with them because the answers can't wait until tomorrow.

Why did that third-grade boy who's never caused a problem in class before act up and disrupt class today?

Why did that fifth-grade girl who is always so outgoing and happy start crying in class today and withdraw from everyone around her?

Important, nonacademic questions Jacqueline Berz needs answered before she can call it another day as principal at Germain Street Elementary School in Chatsworth.

So she gets on the phone from her home after dinner and begins calling parents - looking for answers on what she or her teachers can do to help kids having emotional and social problems at school.

Because this is what the good ones do.

``It's the human touch that makes her so special,'' said school coordinator Elaine Cher, who retired after 33 years as a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District but came back part-time to Germain when Berz said she needed help.

``I wouldn't have come back for anyone else but her,'' Cher said. ``She has such a good heart and cares deeply about every child in her school.''

It's the same comment you hear from all the teachers at Germain, honored recently by the city's Cultural Affairs Commission for the school's historical murals, inspired by Berz and her students.

It's the human touch, though, that is Berz's greatest mark - the human touch that will be missed most of all around Germain school now that she has announced she is retiring after 35 years of work in the LAUSD.

``The first thing I noticed after my daughter started school here was how Mrs. Berz captivated the parents and brought them right into the school family,'' said Jave Ryan, who volunteers at Germain.

``It's very bittersweet for the parents to see her go because she's the reason a lot of us and our children walk down the hallways of this school with a smile on our faces,'' he said.

The human touch.

``We had a young brother and sister whose mother lost the vision in one eye, and Jacqueline was on the phone from home that same night talking to the dad to see what we could do for the family to make the kids more comfortable at school,'' Cher said.

``If something's going on in a family, and a child is acting up or having trouble, Jackie needs to find out why immediately, not later. I've never seen a principal with that kind of devotion.''

Jacqueline has. He was her late husband, Ron Berz, principal at Taft High for 14 years before retiring in 1998 - two years before his death.

And now Jacqueline, who walked into her first classroom job at the height of the Vietnam War in 1967, is also retiring. But before she goes, she has a few lesson plans for us to consider.

``Families are not as intact as they used to be, so it falls more now to the schools to provide children with nurturing as well as education.

``That's why I'm in classrooms every day - so the kids can see me and talk to me,'' she said. ``All we have in life are relationships. Everything else is fleeting.''

The human touch.

``People don't realize this about teachers and principals,'' Berz added. ``All the times we've had to say goodbye to kids who have captured our hearts over the years.''

And now the kids and parents at Germain are having to say a goodbye to their principal.

``You hope, when it's all over, that you are leaving behind a better school than when you arrived,'' she said.

The good ones, like Berz, always do.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Award-winning murals are part of the scene Jacqueline Berz will miss on retirement as principal of Germain Street Elementary School in Chatsworth.

John Lazar/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 18, 2002
Words:654
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